An Overview of the Section on Architecture


The term Traditions Architecture refers to the entire spectrum of building activity as covered by the Vastu texts as well as the indigenous styles of building construction. There is a record of thirty two classical texts pertaining to Vastu and Shilpa , out of which only a small number are available in textual form There also architectural traditions, which display a wide range of designs, building techniques and material technologies with rich regional variations and local adaptations. Our Architectural traditions exist not only in our texts and our monuments it is still a living tradition, albeit a very truncated and withered version of its old self. Our Shilpis and Stapathis still build in the traditional styles, even though their domain of operations is now largely limited to the religious sphere. A lot of our house building work, particularly in the rural areas, still rely largely on traditional building and depend almost exclusively on local crafts and skills. Wherever opportunities and resources are available, our builders still erect | dwellings with charm and grace that are aesthetically pleasing and conducive to the well being of the dwellers.

Lack of access to resources and opportunities is what our traditional designers and builders have been suffering from in the last forty to fifty years. No housing boards consult the Stapathis. Design of edifices and entire cities meant to be the symbols of our national pride and glory are contracted out to Western architects. Our current policies and regulations are on the one hand marginalizing the scholars and practitioners of our architecture and on the other making no dent on our housing problems. The number of our homeless is expected to go up from the current figure of about twenty five millions to about forty five millions by the turn of the century.

In recent years however, there is an increasing awareness that excessive and exclusive dependence on Western styles, techniques and material is neither desirable nor practical in our context. There is greater interest in understanding and interpreting our Vastu texts. Serious efforts have begun to be undertaken by individuals to explore the contemporary uses of traditional building materials like mud, bamboo, stone, lime plaster etc. Modem architects are also beginning to realize the capacities of our traditional builders to adapt their skills and knowledge to the modern needs and requirements. There is growing interest to comprehend the connection between the theories propounded in the classical texts and the practices of the traditional builders so as to result in an Indian metaphor of design suited to the contemporary context.

This section of the Congress was aimed to assist the process of rejuvenation of our rich and unique traditions so that our settlements and our homes can once again become aesthetically and functionally wholesome. The whole, section was envisaged around the following themes: Tribal architecture, Folk architecture, Sacred architecture, Restoration, Town planning, Contemporary architecture and in the concluding session an open forum was called for to think of the follow up activities after the Congress. A total number of twenty four participants presented the papers covering the above mentioned themes.

The Highlights

Tribal Architecture

1. Ritu Varuni - on Tribal Shelters: Bamboo and timber Building Craft of the Tribes
of Arunachal Pradesh from TARU (The Action Research Unit for Development)
New Delhi.

She focused on the following points: The built environment of an area is a spokesman of its cultural ecology, lifestyle and social values. There is immense wisdom and coherence in the building construction of traditional shelters in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. The intrinsic knowledge of the master builder, his relationship with the shelter; and community and the sophistication of structural design needs to be fully appreciated in its own context.

2. Ravi Chopra from People's Science Institute, Dehradun on Earth Quake Resistant
Housing in Central Himalayas.

He highlighted the principal practices involved traditionally, to resist an earth quake. This is supported by the documentation which he and his team had made and showed examples of the buildings which resisted the major earthquake in the recent past.

3. H.N.Dash from Bhubaneshwar talked on Tribal Settlements and Housing patterns
in Orissa.

He brought into light how the tribal’s understand and relate the built environment, their needs and the surroundings and how the modem designer who fails or lacks an understanding of these issues is designing a settlement for them. He cautioned the gathering regarding rehousing of tribals since such experiments has failed. He said that the sample dwellings of tribal’s should be left untouched .so that detailed studies can be carried out.

4. Religious D'Souza of Bombay talked on Tribal Housing or Bodha: The Art and Science of Karvi Hut.

He exemplified the subtle aspects of these tribes and their understanding of the built environment He stressed that there is a lot that a modern designer/architect needs to learn from them. The traditional knowledge on sustainable development, simple aesthetic surrounding, constant interaction between man, nature and the abodes of man are treasure houses for our learning.

5. Nilesh Bhavsar from Vedchhi Pradesh Seva Samiti, Valod, presented their team's work on Housing assistance offered to the Antyodaya families.

There is much to be learnt from rural housing techniques before any large scale interventions in mass housing can take place.

Folk Architecture

1. N.Raj Banshi & Ramniwas Sharma from Jaipur put forth their enquiry in the Science of Traditional Architecture.

They talked of the relationship between technology and architecture and they said that this relationship is exemplified in each project and would be impossible to generalize upon. Also that there cannot be a consistent set of values that can be illustrated in all the projects. They based their explanations on their case study of Jaipur. The slides covering the various monuments and residences showed clearly the climatic understanding, knowledge of materials, aesthetic order even in heterogeneity in the city scope of Jaipur and the knowledge of the traditional builder.

2. Madhu Limaye from Pune talked on Practical and Prospective Utility of Traditional
Vastu Shastra

For him the study Vastu Shastra is nothing but complete understanding of Disha (direction), Geology, Geography, Geomancy, Geometry, and Physics etc. And that it is a total science.

3. Ramesh Jain from Bhopal presented his paper on Harappan country: A case study
of the Application of Time Scale in the Town and country planning

He stressed that traditionally city as well as the country was planned by the ancients taking the temple of their deity as the centre and drawing a circle around it to be divided into twelve equal parts by the radiating lines from the centers. And these inhabited by the similarly distributed sections of the population so as to issue for themselves holiness and favor of Gods. He states one such city planned on this basis, is the Ha rap pan Country surrounding the Indo -Pakistan desert.

4. C.V.Kand from Bhopal talked on Civilization and Civil Engineering.

Civilization is intimately connected with civil engineering. He talked about some of the major achievements in this front starting with the ancient structures up to Bahai temple in Delhi.

5. Rajender Kumbhar talking on Traditional Folk Practices

He gave an insight into the usage of brick, mud and lime in practice since time immemorial. These practices he said are still in vogue in many of the places in India and the modem engineer/designer has a role to play in it, in understanding and finding its implications today.

Sacred Architecture

Two traditionalists, Shri V.Ganapathi Stapathi from Madras and Kanippayyoor Krishnan Nam booth iri pad from Kerala were present. V.Ganapathi Stapathi presented the plenary session on The Importance of the Scale. Kanippayyoor Krishnan Namboothiripad explained the subject of The Science of Architecture as per Shastras.

1. Nandita Krishna through her paper gave an introduction to Indian Art.

She said, Art in ancient India was an expression of certain philosophical ideas. From the basic design of the temple, with its sanctum sanctorum, surrounded by circumbolatory passages and mandapas his temple was an expression of Hindu cosmology and the Hindu view of the world, which finds expression in the Vedas, Puranas, and the two great epics. Thus she spoke of Indian art and characteristic features which have a deep underlying meaning.

2. Ashalatha Thampuran from Trivandrum dealt with the Evolution of Religious
Architecture from Residential Architecture basing on the case study of Kerala

She emphasized that all over India there is a distinct difference in the treatment of the traditional residential and religious architecture. In contrast to this general convention in
Kerala Traditional Architecture, both religious and secular buildings are comparable in size,
scale, general planning aspects and treatment of various spaces.


1. Nimish Patel and Parol Zavery from Ahmedabad gave a review of the Architects' role and responsibilities in the development activities within and around historic/traditional sites and settlements.

They started by saying that the built environment of a settlement encompasses as well as reflects, the dynamics of the changing roles and relationships of its people. The profession of architecture is expected to understand, guide and manifest this ongoing process of development, through their inputs to achieve the eventual objective of a better quality of life for the people at large. Through their observations, over a period, they felt that there is a need to take a fresh look at our understanding of the history and its relevance, the use of the traditional materials and the technologies.

2. Shaji T.L., M.S.Mathews and S.Somayaji prepared a paper regarding Inspection and Restoration of Timber in Historic Buildings, which was presented by M.S.Mathews.

Their paper dealt with a detailed study of deterioration of timber in historic buildings, the factors affecting wood deterioration such as relative humidity, temperature, nutrition, pH value, micro-organisms and insects. Details of characteristics and causes of damages based on a detailed study and details of possible renovation and restoration methods were presented.

3. Dr.G.C.Chauley from Archaeological Survey of India presented the ongoing documentation on The Conservation of Lord Jaganath Temple at Puri

The structural weakness and problems of profuse leakages of most of the temples and inability of the temple committee to tackle it led the Government to take the necessary steps. On checking it was realized that beneath the 45 cm thick coat of lime plaster the beautiful carvings still existed. Since the very purpose of this coating has failed, it was decided to remove it. The rest followed. He presented stage by stage decisions and technical skill of operation.

Town Planning

1. K.T.Ravindran from Delhi gave an Overview of Town Planning in India.

There were a lot of issues he raised that the modern architect/planner needs to bear in mind while designing a new city or town. It was learnt that it is people who form the city, and community that nurtures the system - not the government. Today, for every one of us, everything is in numbers. We see people in terms of numbers, their needs/aspirations in terms of numbers. A shift from this idea of numbers to people was stressed. He said, as a consequence of this Congress if a systematic study of cultural springs of the country can be made, then that it would be a step ahead towards achieving the idea of rejuvenating the traditional knowledge systems.

2. A.Srivatsan from Madras talked on Traditional Indian Town Planning and Architecture: Its interpretation and relevance.

He said, that Indian architecture and town planning tradition hitherto portrayed an abstraction of texts, and the objective of his paper was to highlight the Indian architecture and settlement as a dynamic and interactive tradition and to explain the limited, though important role of texts in tradition. Taking a few illustrations as basis, their non-conforming nature vis-a-vis texts was highlighted. This non-conformant was explained as a product of human values, perceptions and their interaction with geography. The strength and relevance of the tradition, he said, lies in this interaction and stressed on this interpretation of traditional town planning and architectural practice.

Contemporary Architecture

1. Muktirajsinhji Chauhan from Ahmedabad presented a paper on towards a Humane Habitat on behalf of his entire team.

Human settlements, as said, are organized systems and places and productive and creative activities. Along with a social instinct, a feeling of security, there is also an economic basis for people to come together. A traditional habitat is responsive to socio-cultural practices and life styles of the occupants as also the local climatic conditions. The contemporary codes and regulations do not reflect the qualities of the built environment that have to do with identity, well being, sense of spaciousness, and man’s relationship to nature, a feeling of neighborliness etc. And their attempt he said was to look, at the issues that form a code for human habitat to identify and explore the myths and realities associated with the design of human habitations in India.

2. Jaigopal from Calicut talked oh Architecture for our Democracy.

He said the figure 1000 million - our population around 2000 A.D., just seven years away, cannot cope with the idea of giving everybody a roof of steel and concrete. For it is just physically impossible: On the other hand, we have an example, which for centuries, in every society has produced the architecture it needs, the housing it needs, naturally and indigenously. Same in India too, if seen from river valley civilization to the domination of British, there existed great works of architecture, each distinctly different from one another. The vernacular architecture of village India speaks of its salient features, and how they, (he and his team) are relating this to their work.

3. Sen Kapadia from Bombay talked on Modem interpretation of traditional values
of Indian Architecture.

Through his paper, he presented his examination on .the meaning of learning from precedence. Since scientific knowledge is cumulative understanding of fundamentals, the expression of any given epoch Ms essentially a true manifestation of that level of consciousness. Before architecture assumes aesthetic posture, a building is a physical translation into a form responsive to function as well as environment. And this he said, was his attempt first to understand forces that generated rationale in traditional architecture and then to reinterpret it in terms of contemporary architecture.

4. Kersi Deroga from Kodaikanal presented a paper on Architecture of Traditional
Technologies in less developed regions and hill areas of South India.

This he exemplified through the projects he handled using the locally available materials, craftsmen, artisans and with all the considerations to topography, climate, needs and aspirations.

5. V.Suresh from HUDCO, Delhi presented their efforts in bringing back the age old practices which are relevant even today to any place in its context.

He has presented a variety, of projects in which various kinds of materials, and techniques, have been adopted to suit that particular building type.

A rare opportunity was availed, with Binoy Bhel's excellent slide presentation on Ajantha Caves, and finally ah open discussions was called for to think of what could be done after all this. Sashikala Ananth, called for a data bank where all the research material could be "placed for the access of all the students/scholars/practitioners to pursue the issues and lead them to the frontiers of what it used to be, from what it is now.

Overview of the Contents of the Exhibition

Sacred Architecture

Vaastu Vignanam - Sashikala Ananth - presentation of drawings/photographs on principles of traditional housing.

Vaastu Vignanam (Agraharas of Thanjavur Dist.) - Preetha Mahadevan - Drawings / Models of documentation of Agrahara housing.

Vaastu Vedic Research Foundation. Madras - Shri.V.Ganapathi Stapathi - The Science of Vaastu and the projects being dealt using this was presented - Mode of presentations through drawings / posters.

Contemporary Architecture

ESDC, Calicut - Jaigopal and team - on the functioning of the ESDC and the works related - mode of presentation - photographs.


Nimish Patel and Parul Zaveri - works undertaken by them regarding restoration was presented in the form of drawings and posters.

Tribal Architecture

Vedchhi Pradesh Seva Samiti, Valod on their projects by means of posters and photographs.

Karvi Hut - Remigious D'Souza and his team exhibited the items used by tribes of Maharashtra.

Ravi Chopra from PSI exhibited the documentation of the principles underlying the earthquake proof housing in Central Himalayas - through photographs and drawings.

The profile of the discussion regarding conclusions, recommendations and proposed follow up is as follows:


  1. Policy maker should be made aware - Municipal architects should have some learning - The problem should be talked at the education level.

  2. The system has pushed the people to the brink of poverty - How to deal with it?

  3. The problem of urban housing has to be dealt with seriously.

  4. A checklist of traditional concepts should be prepared.

  5. A tribal population of sixty seven millions- no resource material about them - this lacuna should be filled,

  6. Planners/designers should have their recommendations taken seriously. The professional body should be accountable.

  7. Persons' in power are no longer in contact with the people - Perhaps this is why they do not know what to do.

  8. Are there any ways in which the traditional sciences can be employed in addressing the issues of housing or human clusters?

  9. There are solutions - The traditional housing has been the basis for textual statements.

  10. Tribal’s have these practices still in active employment.

  11. Connecting tradition to quality of life should be our attempt.

  12. How can migration of people be stopped from coming into cities? This is the biggest problem leading to slums and poverty.

  13. Data bank, repository of building styles and techniques.

  14. Models, experiments have to be carried out on traditional concepts which would be tested.

  15. Health science has used the traditional models (eg. Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan Samithy), similarly localized practices involving people in building activity - group effort to achieve local demands.

  16. Legality of practices (non scheduled material) such as mud - simple building practices that are taking care of the needs should be recognized and fostered.

  17. New problems used in new ways for solving - Perhaps the policy-makers do not have a free mind - let us show new models. Western model is" the one that is taking the imagination of the policy makers - we should offer alternatives - This growth should be spontaneous - A caring approach is the only way.

  18. Raise traditional architecture to the level of modern architecture and then allow architects to respond to them and create a new style.

  19. Tradition being specifically studied can easily lead to fundamentalism and political coloring. This must be kept in mind.

  20. Scientific, technological data of the present to be sensitively introduced into traditional ideas.

  21. Relevance of traditional technological practices must be taught/spread - these ideas must be applied.

  22. Differentiate between techniques of construction / theoretical and metaphysical assumptions - isolating material from technique.

  23. Books for schools of architecture - traditional schools of architecture. Students should mix up with the contemporary schools. Technical information about the traditions should be disseminated - Restoration by traditionalists.

  24. Prescriptions, recommendations for action at College, work, artisan level - National Housing Policy Document lays stress on traditional materials and practices, but this is not being converted into action plan.

  25. These issues must be understood by the IIA and other agencies. Material preparation should also be documented - Many people should be involved in the experiments - Teachers should also be exposed to knowledge base.

  26. The delivery system should be strengthened. - Artisans who have traditional skills should be made available.

  27. Spiritual ambience should be made available.

  28. HUDCO experiment - their funding for Nirmiti Kendra - support for technical processes.

  29. Involving artisans in the building process as well as in the design process.


From the deliberations, Research and presentation of the papers in the last few days as well as from the many years of exposure to the traditional field for some of us, these are the ideas and directions that were brought out:

The building tradition in the country is composed of oral knowledge, Textual knowledge, Practical skills, group practices, symbols and myths through which S & T has been nourished.

  1. The architectural community as well as the scholars felt that out of the knowledge base, building practices, community processes, symbols and meanings connected with building activity it would be possible to create a new body of architectural knowledge and practice. This material could well be the instrument through which awareness building for students and designers can be initiated. Planning of residences and commercial building, instituting creativity workshops in educational centers,' making available 'programmes towards familiarizing the student with building ' materials and explorations of tactile skills are the various possibilities open to us.

  2. Building policy can be effected through analysis of the data gathered. At present the policy model that the building bodies are superimposing is outdated (colonial based) and can be changed only if there is alternative material available with us.

  3. Traditional towns with cultural significance can be studied and out of these study new zonal policies, land use policies have to be initiated. Traditional town morphology can be comprehensively documented.

What has prevented this traditional material from being accessible before?

Though many of the practitioners and knowledge holders have been part of the building process, the nurturing aspects of the social system have been sealed off; hence the artisans and craftsmen have frequently been left high and dry to survive on their own. In the tribal context the building process being a community effort, there is much to be leamt by the urban system.

  1. The educational system in the towns and cities does not offer any information on the traditional knowledge and practice systems. As a result the trained professional is brought out into a market based building industry which is not aware of either the knowledge or its relevance.

  2. There is a lack of connection between the designer, builder craftsmen and the client. The architect becomes a conduit for industrial products. There is no collective awareness of the building and its social, economic, ecological implications,

  3. The training of building workers is only being carried out at the 'Modem Technology' level. It would be important to add the other aspect of skilled work and traditional building practices. There is no information regarding traditional materials, practices etc.

Which of the groups can offer help?

1. Educational material would be designed and written by:

• K.T.Ravindran
• H.N. Dash






Ritu Varum

TARU, N.Delrii

Research Institution-


Ravi Chopra

PSI, Deharadun

Research Institution



0. U AT. Bhubaneshwar

Academic Institution


Remigious D'Souza


Practising Architect


Nilesh Bhavsar

Vedchhi Pradesh Seva Samiti, Valod

Voluntary Organisation


Raj Banshi Sharma, Ram Niwas Sharma

MREC, Jaipur

Academic Institution




Engineering^ consultant.


Ramesh Jain

MACT, Bhopal

Academic Institution.




Engineeringg consultant.


Rajendra Kumbar


Engineering consultant


Nandita Krishna

C.P.R.A. Foundation, Madras

Research Institution


Ashalatha Thampuran

College of Engineering,

Academic Institution


Ganapathi Stapathi

Vaastu Vedic Research
Foundation, Madras

Academic Institution.


K. K.Namboothiripad




Nimish Patel, Parul Zaveri


Practising Architect


M.S.Mathews. Shaji T.L., S.Somayji

IIT Madras

Academic Institution




Government organisation



SPA, Delhi

Academic Institution




Practising Architect



Vaastu Shilpa Foundation, Ahemdabad

Research Institution



ESDC, Kerala

Practising Architect


Sen Kapadia


Practising Architect


Kersi Daroga


Practising Architect



HUDCO, Delhi

Government organisation

• Remiguis D'Souza
• Sashikaia Ananth

2. Workshops and training programmes with tribal groups would be offered by D'Souza.

3. Studies on historic settlements would be under Srivatsan's charge.

4. Sashikaia Ananth would start a centre for research and publication.

5. Mr.Suresh of the HUDCO offered his time and energy for the entire effort.

Help needed outside

1. Would it be possible to contain the group activities of demolishing tribal housing, since slowly these housing patterns are being lost?

2. Media highlighting of this work is essential. Towards this the working group would generate material.

3. Some monetary assistance should be offered for the documentation work.

Contact Address:
Ms.Sashikala Ananth,
'Maitri',4th Street, Sri Ram Avenue,
Natesan Colony, Kottiwakkam,
Ph: 415820 MADRAS 600 041. 413865

1 comment:

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